Stei110208

I Think I Can’t

Funny, you’d think Wally Piper’s classic children’s book, The Little Engine That Could, would have been a rich source for cartoon metaphors, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever used it.

The tragic oddity of the economic recovery now well underway is how few people are yet benefitting from it. Wall Street is doing just fine, thank you. The markets are closing in on their old record levels, and bonuses have reached and exceeded pre-recession numbers. Corporate profits are at an all-time high, with companies sitting on two trillion dollars in cash, but so far they’re refusing to spend that loot on hiring.

We appear to have succeeded in becoming a third-world nation in terms of the divide between the haves and have nots. Where, I wonder, is the Egypt-style popular revolt? How long before the people take to the streets?

27 thoughts on “I Think I Can’t”

  1. Arianna Huffington wrote this:
    Third World America: How Our Politicians Are Abandoning the Middle Class and Betraying the American Dream.”

    It’s a fair definition that we will become a 3rd world country if we lose our middle class, much less lose it as the largest segment of our country. She nailed it with this one – as did you Ed!

    I smiled at the signs held by the Egyptian protesters that said ‘yes we can’. I’m still hoping we can – can regain our middle class, can regain politicians who aren’t selling us out to the uber-rich and corporations, can regain the American Dream for all of us.

    And can continue to inspire the rest of the world while we’re at it.

  2. Ed, I think they already have. Remember the anti-government mobs of “Tea Party” people and their heroes Beck and Limbaugh? Miss-guided fools.

  3. Ed, thank you for using The Little Engine that Could! But go back to the first editions and notice, please, that the Little Engine is a GIRL. She was my secret weapon during the feminist pioneering days of the 1970s. Actually, this round I’d see her hauling the “jobs” caboose, but there’s a Marie Antoinette behemoth in the same yard snootily telling us peasants to eat more cake……..

  4. A good bit longer. The poor in America can feed themselves, although tenuously, and many times with government support. When what is left of the social safety net is pulled out after inequality continues to worsen, then we’ll see real social unrest begin to come back.

    (It is also important to remember that poverty is never the measure of a popular protest movement, it is merely a permissive factor in it. Yemen, for example, is worse off than Egypt and yet has seen less protesters. The situation is slightly more complex.)

  5. Ed and most who comment on this website, constantly bash corporations and the wealthy and this I cannot understand. Jerry Brammer, more than once, has insinuated that I am dense. My reply was “apparently so because my wife has told me that for years”.

    Let’s say that a corporation in Michigan makes widgets and employs 300 people and each of these employees pay taxes and use their wages to purchase everything that goes with a middle class lifestyle. These purchases benefit everyone who provides a product or service connected to these wage earners.

    These widgets are made from steel and this steel is made from ore that is mined by a corporation in Wyoming. This corporation has employees that spend their money in the same manner.

    The ore mined in Wyoming is transported to the foundries (another corporation), by a railroad (another corporation), which is turned into steel and transported to the Michigan plant by a trucking company(also a corporation}.

    It seems to me that all the employees of the corporations necessary to manufacture these widgets are the basis of our economy and that is what generates the funds needed to support our governnment. Without wages and profits, the majority of which is supplied by corporations, we have no economy so please tell me where I am wrong.

    1. I don’t have time to do this one justice right now, so someone else please elaborate but essentially Don, what you’ve just described is, sure, an ideal situation, economically. But I think our grievances against corporations have to do with the fact that in the real world, businesses export those jobs in Michigan overseas because it’s cheaper, and then the government doesn’t help the laid off workers because businesses have spent billions of dollars lobbying the government to cut their taxes so they can make more money, and spent billions more convincing half of the country that welfare and taxes are evil (again, so that the government will cut taxes and business will make more money), meaning the government has neither the means nor the political will to help those people the company just laid off.

      The problem is that the government’s job is NOT to serve business, it is to serve the people. That is, after all, what a country is. A free market economy is all well and good in theory, except that your perfect scenario never happens. In the real world, businesses will choose profits at any cost, including the welfare of their employees. Thus, they need certain limits and citizens need protection and services – see child labor restrictions, labor hour laws, discrimination laws, workplace health and safety laws, 401K tax exemptions, etc., all stuff that past U.S. governments had to fight business to provide.

      In a healthy democratic system, people would have more say than businesses in how the government runs, and governments would be able to fairly limit businesses according to the needs of the people. But because our government treats big business like they’re first-class citizens because they have money, and everyone else like they’re second-class citizens, business always gets what it wants. And if you ask a business to choose between profit and the well-being of their employees, it will choose profit 1,000,000% of the time. And that’s what we’re seeing now, with runaway corporate and Wall Street profits but no increased employment, with our government helpless in the Dem’s case and unwilling in the GOP’s case to figure out what’s going on. Business’ access to government must be limited if this is going to be fixed.

      1. It is obvious that our thinking is completely opposite. For example you state that ” the roll of government is not to serve business but to serve the people”.
        My thinking is that if government does not serve business, there is nothing to serve the people with.

        You state that “government does not help laid off workers”. I believe that a laid off worker can draw unemployment compensation for a total of 99 weeks. To me, that is pretty helpful.

        You state ” in a healthy democratic system, people would have more say than business in how the government runs and governments would be able to fairly limit businesses according to the needs of the people”. This one throws me as you go from “a healthy democratic system” to “governments should fairly limit businesses according to the needs of the people”, all in the same sentence, which to me, sounds more like a dictatorship than a democracy.

        1. “It is obvious that our thinking is completely opposite. For example you state that ” the roll of government is not to serve business but to serve the people”. My thinking is that if government does not serve business, there is nothing to serve the people with.”

          The state? For thousands of years the primary means of organization, economic development, protection, and public welfare was the state. The efficacy of the state to create meaningful and positive results has not changed, and someone who has studied economic history in the United States would realize that much of our development is directly attributable to government involvement in the economy.

          “You state that “government does not help laid off workers”. I believe that a laid off worker can draw unemployment compensation for a total of 99 weeks. To me, that is pretty helpful.”

          Yes and no. Businesses tend to discriminate against people who have been unemployed for more than a few months, thus unemployment becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. So the government provides these people with unemployment INSURANCE for which they pay into when they were employed and it keeps them from losing everything.

          So with observation, you can see that this isn’t effective as much more than a stop-gap measure. The government could do more with the very money it spends- it could employ these people to do something good for the country (and the people).

          “You state ” in a healthy democratic system, people would have more say than business in how the government runs and governments would be able to fairly limit businesses according to the needs of the people”. This one throws me as you go from “a healthy democratic system” to “governments should fairly limit businesses according to the needs of the people”, all in the same sentence, which to me, sounds more like a dictatorship than a democracy.”

          Why? A corporation who pollutes the waters where I live and makes my drinking water toxic should not be punished? Should banks that over-leverage themselves by hiding assets off the books not be forced to keep reasonable standards of reserve funds as to prevent catastrophic financial meltdowns? Should corporations control our foreign policy?

          What argument could you possibly have to explain why business interests dominating the interests of a society is good for that society? The very position is a contradiction.

        2. What tim said, with the addition of two things:

          1) You need to re-examine your beliefs and look at where they come from. It’s a healthy thing that everyone ought to do daily, and yet nearly everyone fails to because it’s simpler just to believe what you believe and not care why. I try to avoid this.

          You are telling me that government should serve business because business serves people. This is symptomatic of you having fallen so hard for big business propaganda that you made a crater in the floor. Since when does business serve anything other than its bottom line? Business is not society. Period.

          2) To go along with that, you really need to go read some basic, basic philosophy about government, civil society, and economics. Business is not society. Period. Here’s something to get you started: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract Hint: search business on that page. There’s one mention, and it talks about how civil society is the root of trade and business society. NOT the other way around.

          1. Thankfully, only 20% of Americans think like you and Tim. I think the November election bears out that fact – just can’t wait until 2012.

          2. “Thankfully, only 20% of Americans think like you and Tim. I think the November election bears out that fact – just can’t wait until 2012.”

            To what useful end? If you are bragging that other people think like you with dubious statistics and claim that you are the majority, that essentially means that your philosophical outlook is exactly why our country is struggling so immensely.

            Conservative policies (with some liberal collusion) can be traced to our massive trade deficit, our unstable financial system, our eroding social safety net, our increasingly fewer and larger corporations which collectively push smaller businesses out of markets, our subsidized fossil fuel industry, our subsidized agriculture (corn) industry, our burgeoning military spending, our eroding education system (via intentional revenue losses), our stagnant (declining for some) wages for the last 30 years, accelerating income inequality, huge increase in poverty (1 in 7 Americans is now officially poor), massive corporate profits for the biggest institutions (which are essentially federally guaranteed because of their immense size- even according to ratings agencies), and to finish it off, the highest number of billionaires in the world.

            Look at the world your ideology built. It isn’t a pretty one.

          3. No kidding, Tim. Don: Way to turn a good-faith suggestion to go re-examine some of your thought process into confirmation that you’re hopeless. The problem with this country, honestly, is that people like you, when their beliefs are challenged, simply resort to playground taunts and totally made-up statistics to prove they’re right rather than actually looking deeper into who they are and what they believe. You don’t have to change your mind at all; in fact, you may find that such process only strengthens your convictions.

            But you’re incapable of that, clearly. You are intellectually dishonest, completely hopeless, and a waste of my time. Goodbye.

  6. WOW, that was a mouthfull!! I thought it was this administration that had increased our national debt by one trillion dollars every seven months for the past two years and was running a one and one half trillion dollar deficit this year. I guess I have been misinformed.

    1. The deficit and debt have to do with two major federal commitments: the unbelievable cost of the military that keeps expanding (even in peacetime) and the healthcare crisis which is destroying not only the federal solvency of medicaid/medicare but taking up an ever-increasing amount of personal expenditures.

      The first issue is simple, the second is not but can be traced back to the lack of a national healthcare system. These visuals will help explain it better than I could:

      http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0a/Health_care_cost_rise.svg

      This is just one of the many simple graphs that show you how health care costs (as a percentage of GDP) of the US mapped against other countries. As you can see, we’re spending much more over time despite a bigger overall economy.

      http://www.flickr.com/photos/47179524@N02/4331050381/lightbox/

      This is a better visualization, mostly because of the way it plots data points. The conclusion from this, and the hundreds of graphs like it, is clear: American healthcare costs are rising at a faster rate than any other country in the world.

      http://8020vision.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Healthcare_Spending_1.png

      This nice little graphic, it shows our relatively current health care expenditures vs life expectancy. Any other similar metric shows the same statistical relationship, specifically, the disconnect between what we spend on healthcare and the results we get.

      http://mercatus.org/sites/default/files/Entitlement%20Explosion%20for%20websmaller.jpg

      This is from Mercatus, a center that operates in at my university that is known for its conservative slant. It shows that federal expenditures on medical care have increased markedly and are on their way to destroying the solvency of the government. The cost increase is not because of any specific policy- it is representative of massive, systemic problems in our healthcare industry that require government intervention to correct.

      Now, you might use this information and try to come to the ideologically influenced conclusion that government intervention has caused this. This is thoroughly wrong, and the experience of other countries have shown this to be demonstrably false. PBS: Frontline has a great special on this that deals with this: http://video.pbs.org/video/1050712790

      So, after all this, you might hopefully come to a more nuanced and complete understanding of the debt issue, something more meaningful and accurate than “Obama is spending all our money!” At least that is what I hope.

  7. I’m sorry to have upset you. If it wasn’t for myself and a couple of others to keep the pot stirred, this would be a boring website as for as the comments. The only thing you would have to say is “good job, Ed” or “I agree with you”

    By the way, what ever happened to BJ? I thought his comments were interesting..

  8. I was having a good time sitting on the sidelines, Don, but you up an pull a Fred on these guys. There is no need to change the subject simply because you feel you are losing a debate. I’m not near as smart as Tim and Locke but I do remember my history and all it takes is a short read on the Robber Barons to see how your view works out. I’m not interested in going back to that model.
    P.S. As you well know, the previous administration doubled the national debt by a total of over 5 trillion primarily due to passing tax cuts while pursuing 2 wars. The current administration inherited an annual deficit of $400 billion+ and a recession, which by the way, some might say was the result of too little government oversight.

    1. Jerry, I had no intention of changing the subject but Locke got upset and bid me goodbye. I was trying to apologize and at the same time stand by my statements. Now you come back with the same old liberal rhetoric “we inherited” but you left one out – “the top 2%”. Did niot Obama extend the tax cuts that you mentioned and are we not still involved in those two wars after 2+ years of this Administration?

      Do you disagree that this Administration has increased the national debt one trillion dollars every seven months it has been in power and that the deficit this past year was one and one half trillion dollars?

      1. This administration has most certainly been complicit in its use of tax cuts. Not just extending them for the wealthy, but creating new ones for the wealthy and businesses, which have accomplished little to nothing.

        However, it would be a fundamental misunderstanding to say that this current administration is at fault for the sorry state of our finances. A more accurate statement would be that “This administration has largely avoided dealing with the problems left to it, extending many of the same policies that caused the previous administration’s debt/deficit explosion.”

        1. I have said this before but I am going to repeat it – I was never a Bush fan and I criticised him for years over not trying for a longer period of time to topple Hussein short of going to war. Maybe I am naieve and maybe that was impossible but I just never felt right about entering a war in the Mid-East. I criticised the last Administration heavily for the heavy spending, large deficits and increasing our national debt. The Republicans deserved to be booted out in 06 and 08. There is no doubt that any Democrat could have won the Presidency in 08. Having said this, there is not a doubt in my mind that this Administration inherited a bad situation but the problem is they accelerated the spending, causing an outrageous deficit and increase in the national debt and we have little to nothing to show for it

          I know you are going to spin this with the usual “it would have been worse” or “we saved millions of jobs” or some other malarky that I don’t think that you even believe. There is one thing you can’t deny, you liberals have been left alone out in left field. President Obama has thrown you under the bus in an attempt to give the impression that he is moving to the center in an attempt to save his own behind in the 2012 election.

          .

          1. “I have said this before but I am going to repeat it – I was never a Bush fan and I criticised him for years over not trying for a longer period of time to topple Hussein short of going to war. Maybe I am naieve and maybe that was impossible but I just never felt right about entering a war in the Mid-East.”

            To what benefit? To cause a civil war with more deaths? All you need to do is look at the Congo to see what happens when the US gets in the business of deciding who has the right to lead which nation.

            “I criticised the last Administration heavily for the heavy spending, large deficits and increasing our national debt. The Republicans deserved to be booted out in 06 and 08. There is no doubt that any Democrat could have won the Presidency in 08.”

            Fair enough, though the deficit had little to do with specific discretionary spending. It was medicare part D, military spending and tax cuts (Plus existing obligations). Stuff that is largely still supported by conservatives.

            “Having said this, there is not a doubt in my mind that this Administration inherited a bad situation but the problem is they accelerated the spending, causing an outrageous deficit and increase in the national debt and we have little to nothing to show for it.”

            The economics has shown they’ve done decent at stemming the bleeding. I neither condone nor condemn their attempts to fix the economy.

            “I know you are going to spin this with the usual “it would have been worse” or “we saved millions of jobs” or some other malarky that I don’t think that you even believe.”

            See above. It’s been a mixed bag, and much frustration with economic policies has to do with the embrace of ineffective means to “save jobs” such as tax credits. We would probably agree that much of the stimulus was a waste because it did not do much in the way of job creation (the economic literature varies, but all agree that it could have been much better).

            But this is more or less by intent. I find myself repeating this frequently when referring to American politics: “We didn’t fix the problem because we didn’t try to.”

            “There is one thing you can’t deny, you liberals have been left alone out in left field. President Obama has thrown you under the bus in an attempt to give the impression that he is moving to the center in an attempt to save his own behind in the 2012 election.”

            No doubt. The problem with his vision of centrism is that he does not meet on issues that can be seen eye to eye (such as what Clinton tried to do) but rather waters down all positions, making neither conservatives nor liberals happy.

      2. Don,

        Perhaps I was being irrational. I apologize. But it seemed to me that at that comment you stopped debating, which I rather enjoy, and started simply ignoring Tim and I and shilling falsehoods. I’m happy to engage you in a debate, but I won’t put up with people who ignore and dismiss arguments when they don’t agree with them or become overwhelmed. It’s more honest to say you’re tired of debating than pull that “well you’ll lose the elections so your opinion doesn’t matter” BS.

  9. Actually, Locke’s email was after your change of pace assuming the time stamps are all the same time zone. I don’t know. I have to chuckle when you tell me that you bring up the current deficits as your own thoughts but when I rebut with facts, my comments are liberal “rhetoric”. Rhetoric!! Duh!

    You mentioned earlier that I have insuated that you were dense. Let me clear that up. You are not dense. You are simply misinformed and probably have a great time with us who irrationally take you seriously.

    Your facts are correct but they ignore other true facts and causes as well as well. What is your point?

  10. A good reply, Tim – I have enjoyed the bantering and exchange of opinions. I am leaving town for a short trip so will bow out temporarily.

    1. Hey Don – I’m still here. 10-12 hour work days, a growing family, and no internet at home have left me with limited opportunity to really get involved in any of these discussions. I still make sure to check in to see Ed’s work and the circus that follows! Keep it up, I enjoy your pot-stirring.

      1. Hey BG, glad you are still here but I just had a thought – if you had a computer at home, maybe the family wouldn’t grow so fast and you wouldn’t have to work these 10 – 12 hour days. LOL

        Seriously, how about a little help in the future, these guys have been crucifying me!

  11. This cartoon serves its purpose perfectly, however you know your not portraying the message clearly when you have to put the message in big bold font. THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULDN’T printed on the strip is not needed as the cartoon portray it fine. But hey the ones this strip is meant for probably need it spelled out

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